The election campaign seemingly kicked off on Monday, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull clearly setting the double dissolution trigger while at the same time making some confident assertions about the economy. But look closely and you’ll see not many of them are true.
Take this one: “Our economy is successfully transitioning from the mining construction boom to a new and more diverse one …”
Official figures show no evidence that Australia’s economy is successfully transitioning. As reported here, debt is higher, wealth has declined dramatically, employment is lower and trade is disastrously down. As shown here, debt-driven property speculation poses a danger to the whole economy.
In opposition, the Coalition identified 22 areas of the economy it claimed were failing under Labor and promised rectification.
But now, after 31 months of steady global recovery, 20 of those markers are worse while two have stayed the same: economic growth and job participation. No indicator has improved.
What about growth?
“My government’s economic plan is supporting this transition, to drive economic growth, and create new higher-paying jobs in the future,” the PM said.
Fewer hours are being worked now per person than in mid-2013, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The jobless rate over the last six months – since Mr Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison replaced the discredited Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey team – has fluctuated between 5.8 and 6.1 per cent. During the last six months of Labor, the range was 5.6 to 5.8 per cent.
Judged on the recent past, future wage growth seems unlikely. ABS statistics show wages grew by 0.6 index points in the December quarter; the lowest since the depths of the global financial crisis in September 2009.
The 2015 annual rise – 2.6 index points – was well below 2014 – 2.9 – and much lower than Labor’s six-year average of 3.93. The 2015 level was the lowest since the Howard government’s 2.5 during the 2001 downturn.
Protecting small business and consumers?
Mr Turnbull’s “landmark reform” in this area is one thing. Enforcing it is another, with the Coalition’s record abysmal, as figures from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
“And of course the upcoming budget will include more elements in our economic plan, ensuring Australia’s tax system is backing jobs, growth and investment in Australian enterprise,” the PM said.
Those criticising Australia’s current taxation system – specifically the Coalition’s failure to collect tax from large corporations – now include academics, the Tax Commissioner, the former CEO of the Australian Stock Exchange and the Business Council of Australia.
“My government is directing every lever of policy to secure our nation’s prosperity and economic security for the 21st century,” Mr Turnbull said.
No. The latest report from Credit Suisse showed Australia’s prosperity, as measured by median wealth, fell from $US219,505 in 2013 to a dismal $US168,291 in 2015.
“The construction industry is vital to the transition to the new economy … When the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) was in force, productivity in the sector grew by 20 per cent. Since it was abolished productivity has flatlined.”
This is simply not true. The ABCC closed in May 2012. At that time, labour productivity had risen for five quarters, starting in the first quarter of 2011. It continued to rise for a remarkable total of 17 consecutive quarters, reversing in 2015 after the first Coalition budget.
It would be a crazy-brave leader who would attempt to run an election campaign on such a feeble record. Except for one thing. Australia’s mainstream media is highly unlikely to report any of these economic realities accurately.
Alan Austin is a freelance journalist who covers religious affairs and economic and social issues which impact the disadvantaged. He has worked in Australia Indonesia, China and now France.